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Poll: One year after SB 8, Texans express strong support for abortion rights

Protesters hold signs as they march in opposition to the anti-abortion law S.B. 8 outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021 in Austin.
Sergio Flores
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Protesters hold signs as they march in opposition to the anti-abortion law S.B. 8 outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021 in Austin.

One year after Texas implemented what was then the most restrictive abortion law in the country, a majority of Texas voters are expressing strong support for abortion rights.

In a new survey, six in 10 voters said they support abortion being "available in all or most cases," and many say abortion will be a motivating issue at the ballot box in November. Meanwhile, 11% say they favor a total ban on abortion.

"We've known that politicians in Texas and across the country have been enacting harmful abortion bans. We've known that they've been out of step with what Texans want, and now we have the data to prove that," said Carisa Lopez, senior political director for the Texas Freedom Network, one of several reproductive rights groups that commissioned the poll.

Texas Freedom Network, a progressive nonprofit founded by former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, describes its mission as monitoring and fighting back against the religious right in Texas.

Polling firm PerryUndem surveyed 2,000 Texas voters in late June, just before the Dobbs decision was issued. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The data release comes one year after the implementation of S.B. 8, which relies on civil lawsuits to enforce a prohibition on most abortions after about six weeks.

Pollster Tresa Undem said she believes the issue is likely to motivate turnout among supporters of abortion rights in states including Texas in November.

"I think that's probably why in Texas we're seeing a shift in the Texas electorate becoming more pro-choice — because there's been that year of S.B. 8, and people experiencing that," Undem said.

Because of S.B. 8, Texas had provided an early example of the impact of restrictive abortions laws, months before the U.S. Supreme Court released its Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade and other abortion-rights precedent.

In response to that ruling in late June, the state's trigger ban — also passed in 2021 in anticipation of Supreme Court action — also took effect, making abortion completely illegal in Texas except to save a patient's life during a medical emergency. Doctors say that exception is narrow and subject to interpretation, and some say they fear terminating pregnancies for patients facing medical crises.

Anti-abortion demonstrators participate in the Texas March for Life on January 15, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.
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Anti-abortion demonstrators participate in the Texas March for Life on January 15, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.

Undem says she's seeing growing support for abortion rights among several key voting blocs including women, Latinos, and younger voters.

Among the key races this November is a gubernatorial matchup between Democrat Beto O'Rourke, an abortion rights supporter, and Republican incumbent Greg Abbott, who's been a vocal opponent of abortions and signed S.B. 8 into law last year. Abbott has maintained a consistent lead in several polls.

The survey found that O'Rourke supporters listed abortion access among the top issues motivating their votes, while Abbott supporters listed other issues as a higher priority, including border security, inflation, and the economy.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.